COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease Information

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What is COVID-19?

In December 2019, a pneumonia of unknown cause affected a number of patients in Wuhan, China. These were soon determined to have been caused by a new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the disease that this virus causes has been named "COVID-19"

Most patients who contract COVID-19 will experience a mild illness that is self-limiting (i.e. it will go away on its own, in the absence of any medical intervention). The majority of these cases can and should be managed at home, with special care to ensure that infected persons remain isolated so that they cannot spread the disease.

Do I need to be tested?

At present, the criteria for testing are as follows:

Persons with acute respiratory illness with sudden onset of at least one of the following:

  • cough
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath
  • fever [≥ 38°C (measured) or history of fever (subjective)]

    irrespective of admission status.

  • Persons at a highest risk are those who have an acute respiratory illness and who, in the 14 days prior to onset of symptoms, met at least one of the following epidemiological criteria:
    • Were in close contact with a confirmed or probable case of SARS-CoV-2 infection; OR
    • Had a history of travel to areas with local transmission of SARS-CoV-2; OR
    • Worked in, or attended a health care facility where patients with SARS-CoV-2 infections were being treated; OR
    • Admitted with severe pneumonia of unknown aetiology.

What if I don't meet the criteria for testing?

At this moment, persons not meeting the criteria should not be tested. A negative result in a person who has no symptoms does not preclude someone from becoming COVID-19 positive later on in the course of illness. All persons with a travel history to areas reporting local transmission should quarantine themselves for two weeks upon entry to South Africa.

What is the treatment for COVID-19?

Currently, there is no targeted antiviral therapy that has been shown to be effective against COVID-19. Particularly, drugs such as Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) and chloroquine have not been shown to modify disease outcomes and, as such, should not be used. There is no scientific data to show that these drugs will prevent anyone from getting sick with COVID-19, or that they will aid in recovery for those who are infected.

Treatment for COVID-19 is supportive and includes measures to lower fever, treat muscle pains or headaches, and remain hydrated. Severely ill patients require in-hospital treatment that may include oxygen or respiratory support.

How can I stay safe?

  • Effective hand hygiene - washing hands thoroughly with soap and water, or using alcohol-based hand rub
  • Social distancing - maintaining distance of at least 2 metres from anyone coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth - as these are entry points for the virus
  • Respiratory hygiene - coughing or sneezing into one’s bent elbow, or into a tissue that is then immediately disposed of
  • Avoid public spaces and gatherings
  • Avoid shaking hands - greetings with no physical contact should be used instead of shaking hands or hugging

Masks & PPE

The public has been urged to wear cloth masks (NB not a surgical mask or an N95 or equivalent) when outside of their homes.

Cloth masks can be purchased from various resellers, or self-made inexpensively. More information can be found at the Western Cape government website.

Gloves are not recommended for use by the public, though strict hand hygiene should always be followed.

During the lockdown, please comply with all instructions from the South African Government.

We urge all South Africans to stay at home, unless they are essential workers, or need to seek medical care, purchase groceries, urgently visit a bank, or collect a grant.

Who is at risk of severe illness?

Older persons, those with underlying diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and those with suppressed immunity are more likely to face serious complications from COVID-19. We can best help to protect these groups by making sure we follow the guidance outlined above around social practices and hygiene.

Where can I find reliable information?

Trusted information is available from us, and from these sources